Where is the Magic of Contemporary Fairy-Tale Adaptations?
The Production of Wonder as Activist Response
Co-sponsored by the Folklore Student Association.
Looking back at Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, was there any magic? Not any announced as such. The choice of tales is relevant here: in most versions of “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Puss in Boots” respectively, the talking wolf and cat are the only “supernatural” motifs; in “Bluebeard” the blood on the key is also an isolated magic detail along with the victims" fresh blood in the secret room; “Snow White” is all about metaphoric alchemy; and the trope of transformation in “Beauty and the Beast” becomes an “as if” in Carter‟s perceptual and ideological unmasking. What were Angela Carter's fairy-tale adaptations signaling with their absence not only of fairies, princes, and princesses, but of magic? I started thinking about this in response to students asking about the lack of magic in literary retellings after Angela Carter.
Today's fairy-tale transformations activate multiple—and not so predictable—intertextual and generic links that both expand and decenter the narrow conception of the genre fixed in Disneyfied pre-1970s popular cultural memory. Responding to this multivocality, I contend that, actively contesting an impoverished poetics of magic, a renewed, though hardly cohesive, poetics and politics of wonder are at work in the contemporary cultural production and reception of fairy tales. In my new book I focus on situated responses to the hegemony of a colonizing, Orientalizing, and commercialized poetics of magic, and this paper suggests how attending to the poetics of wonder in contemporary fairy-tale adaptations in English can contribute to our re-examining of the genre within today's cultural field of production.
[pdf] - Some links on this page are to .pdf files. If you need these files in a more accessible format, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. PDF files require the use of Adobe Acrobat Reader software to open them. If you do not have Reader, you may use the following link to Adobe to download it for free at: Adobe Acrobat Reader.